- 2003 New England Patriots season
team = New England Patriots
year = 2003
record = 14-2
division_place = 1st
playoffs = Won Divisional Playoffs (Titans) 17-14
Won Conference Championship (Colts) 24-14
Super Bowl XXXVIII(Panthers) 32-29
pro bowlers = 3
New England Patriotsseason was the 34th season for the team in the National Football Leagueand 44th season overall. The Patriots finished the regular season 14-2, improving on their 9-7 record of 2002, when the team finished in second place in the AFC Eastand missed the playoffs. After starting the season with a 2-2 record, the team did not lose another game. Due to multiple injuries, the Patriots started 42 different players during the season, an NFL record for a division winner until the Patriots started 45 different players in 2005 [ [http://www.patriots.com/team/index.cfm?ac=coachbio&bio=506 Bill Belichick Biography] New England Patriots. Accessed 23 April 2007.] . With the first seed in the AFC playoffs, the Patriots advanced to and won Super Bowl XXXVIII, their second Super Bowl win in three seasons.
2003 NFL Draft
Final divisional standings
*September 7 @
Buffalo Bills:Following the release of Lawyer Milloythe Patriots met the Bills in Buffalo, and Milloy was there after signing a deal with the Bills. Drew Bledsoethrew for one touchdown while Tom Bradywas picked off four times; in the second quarter defensive lineman Sam Adamsran an interception for a 37-yard touchdown. Brady was also sacked twice, once by Milloy, in a 31-0 Bills rout.
*October 5 vs. Tennessee Titans:The Patriots began a 21-game winning streak in hosting the Titans. Nursing a shoulder injury, Brady threw for a comparatively modest 219 yards and a 58-yard score to
Troy Brown. The game lead changed seven times as Steve McNairthrew for 360 yards and rushed in two touchdowns while Patriots running backs Antowain Smithand Mike Cloudrushed for 153 yards and three scores and rookie Bethel Johnsonran back a fourth-quarter kick 71 yards, setting up Cloud's second touchdown. The decisive score came when McNair was picked off by a hobbling Ty Lawfor a 65-yard touchdown and a 38-30 Patriots triumph.
*October 19 @
Miami Dolphins:Battling the Dolphins for the division lead, the Patriots erased a 13-6 gap with a Brady touchdown to David Givensin the third. The Dolphins marched down field late in the fourth; during this drive a Ricky Williamsfirst down run was protested by the Patriots who felt Williams' knee touched the dirt infield at Pro Player Stadium, but the challenge was denied. The Dolphins attempted a 35-yard field goal at the two-minute warning, but the kick was blocked by Richard Seymour. The Dolphins smothered the Patriots' final drive attempt and the game went to overtime. Controversy ensued on the coin flip for overtime; referee Gerald Austinused a silver dollar; the coin came up "heads" but Patriot captains Brady and Seymour protested that it came up "tails." The Dolphins drove downfield but a 35-yard field goal try missed; after forcing a Patriots punt Jay Fiedlerwas hit by Tedy Bruschiand lobbed a 60-yard pass picked off at the Patriots 18-yard line by Tyrone Poole. Brady then ended the game with an 82-yard touchdown strike to Troy Brownand a 19-13 final.
*November 3 @
Denver Broncos:The Patriots made their only appearance on Monday Night Footballof the season in this matchup against the Broncos, who had beaten the Patriots in 13 of the two teams' 15 previous meetings. The Broncos held a 24-23 lead in the fourth with backup quarterback Danny Kanellstarting and despite injuries to Ed McCaffreyand PK Jason Elam. Backed up to their one-yard line, the Patriots were forced to punt, but with so little room to work, they snapped the ball through the endzone for a deliberate safety. Thus getting a free kick, the Patriots pinned the Broncos near their own goalline and forced a Denver punt. In the final two minutes, the Patriots drove downfield and Tom Bradyfired an 18-yard touchdown strike to David Givens. Kanell threw a long pass that was intercepted by rookie Asante Samuelwith seven seconds left, securing a 30-26 Patriots win.
*November 23 @
Houston Texans:Facing their future defensive coach Dom Capers, the Patriots made their first trip to Houston since 1988 and a 31-6 loss to the Oilers at the Astrodome. The Patriots led 10-3 at the half, but Adam Vinatierimissed a 38-yard field goal try at the end of the half, his first miss inside a dome in his career. Tony Bankserupted to three second-half touchdowns as the Texans' defense bullied the Patriots into two fumbles and a Tom BradyINT. Trailing 20-13 in the final minutes of regulation the Patriots drove down field; at the Texan' 4-yard line Brady was chased out of the pocket and threw a pass caught in the endzone in mid-air by Daniel Graham. In overtime a 37-yard Vinatieri field goal try was blocked, but the Texans were forced to punt. Late in overtime the Texans' Marlon McCreepicked off Brady at his 5-yard line but a holding penalty nullified the turnover, and Vinatieri kicked the game-winner with 41 seconds left in overtime and a 23-20 Patriots win.
*November 30 @
Indianapolis Colts:This was the Patriots' first meeting with the Colts since 2002 divisional realignment put the Colts into the new AFC Southafter 32 seasons with the Pats in the AFC East. The two teams stood at 9-2, the latest in a season two teams with nine wins had met. The Patriots raced to a 17-3 second-quarter lead behind scores by Mike Cloudand Dedric Ward. Following a Peyton Manningtouchdown to Marcus Pollardwith 12 seconds left in the first half, Bethel Johnsonran back the ensuing kick 92 yards for a touchdown. But the Patriots 31-10 runaway following another Cloud touchdown became an epic shootout as two Brady interceptions gave the Colts touchdown drives, and they tied the game at 31 at 4:39 of the fourth. Another monster Johnson kick return set up a Brady to Deion Branchtouchdown, but the score stood at 38-34 Patriots in the final minute with the Colts at the Patriots goalline. A heroic goalline stand led by Willie McGineststopped the Colts from scoring and the win left several Patriots visibly shaken; Rodney Harrisonnoted afterward, "I've never seen anything like this."
*December 27 vs.
Buffalo Bills:The regular season finale saw the Patriots hosting the same Bills that blanked them 31-0 in September. Revenge drove the Patriots as Tom Bradythrew four touchdowns, all in the first half, and despite an ugly hit in the legs by Lawyer Milloyin the second quarter. Adam Vinatierimissed a third-quarter field goal but connected from 24 yards out in the fourth. Drew Bledsoenever got untracked and was pulled in the fourth quarter for Travis Brown, who got to the Patriots redzone at the end of the fourth quarter but was intercepted in the endzone by Larry Izzo. The Patriots' 31-0 win bookended the season.
Divisional Round vs. Tennessee Titans
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts"
*Game time: 8:00 p.m. EST
*Game weather: convert|4|°F|°C, clear
*TV announcers (CBS):
Greg Gumbel(play-by-play), Phil Simms(color commentator), and Armen Keteyian(sideline reporter)
*Game attendance: 68,436
In one of the coldest games in NFL history, with temperatures reaching convert|4|°F|°C, the Patriots survived both the cold and NFL co-MVP
Steve McNair, relying on yet another game-winning field goal from kicker Adam Vinatierilate in the fourth quarter and a key defensive stand. Tom Bradystormed out the gates with a 19-yard completion to Kevin Faulkwith his first pass attempt. A few plays later, the Titans defensive scheme confused him and caused him to burn a timeout, but it was well spent. On the next play, he threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Bethel Johnson. McNair struck back with a 15-yard completion to Derrick Masonand a 24-yard pass to running back Eddie George, moving the ball to the Patriots 22-yard line. Roman Phiferalmost ended the drive by intercepting a pass from McNair, but lineman Richard Seymourwas penalized for roughing the passer and the Titans got the ball back with a first down on the New England 9-yard line. Two plays later, Chris Brown scored a 5-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
After the ensuing kickoff, Brady completed two passes to
Dedric Wardfor 30 yards on a 38-yard drive to the Titans 26-yard line. The drive ended with no points when Vinatieri missed a 44-yard field goal attempt, but on the next play, safety Rodney Harrisonintercepted a pass from McNair and returned it 7 yards to the Patriots 43-yard line. Brady subsequently completed four of six passes for 49 yards and rushed for 3 on the way to a 1-yard touchdown run by Antowain Smithto retake the lead less than two minutes into the second quarter. Later in the period, the Titans drove 51 yards in nine plays to the Patriots 13-yard line, featuring a 29-yard completion from McNair to Mason. But New England's defense kept them out the end zone and blocked Gary Anderson's 31-yard field goal attempt.
Early in the third quarter, McNair led the Titans on a 70-yard scoring drive, completing 5 consecutive passes for 59 yards and capping it off with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Mason. The rest of the third quarter was scoreless, but midway through the fourth quarter,
Troy Brown's 10-yard punt return gave the Patriots great field position at the Titans 40-yard line. The Patriots gained only 13 yards on their ensuing possession, but it was enough for Vinatieri to make a 46-yard field goal, giving New England a 17-14 lead with 4:02 left in regulation.
The Titans took the ensuing kickoff and drove to the Patriots 33-yard line. But two penalties, a 10-yard intentional grounding call and a holding penalty, pushed them back 20 yards. McNair threw an 11-yard completion on the next play, but after that,
Drew Bennettdropped a potential first down catch on fourth down and 12, and the Titans turned the ball over on downs with 1:38 left.
**NE - Johnson 41 pass from Brady (Vinatieri kick) NE 7-0
**TEN - Brown 5 run (Anderson kick) Tie 7-7
**NE - Smith 1 run (Vinatieri kick) NE 14-7
**TEN - Mason 11 pass from McNair (Anderson kick) Tie 14-14
**NE - field goal Vinatieri 46 NE 17-14
AFC Championship vs. Indianapolis Colts
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts"
*Game time: 3:00 p.m. EST
*Game weather: convert|32|°F|°C, cloudy, occasional snow
*TV announcers (CBS): Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Phil Simms (color commentator), Armen Keteyian and
Bonnie Bernstein(sideline reporters)
*Game attendance: 68,436
New England's defense dominated the Colts, only allowing 14 points, intercepting 4 passes from
Peyton Manning(3 of them by Ty Law), recording 4 sacks (three by Jarvis Green), and forcing a safety. Although New England's offense fared no better and only scored one touchdown, Vinatieri's 5 field goals made up for the difference as the Patriots won, 24-14, to advance to their second Super Bowl appearance in 3 seasons.
The Patriots took the opening kickoff and scored on their first drive, advancing the ball 65 yards in 13 plays.
Tom Bradycompleted four passes to receiver David Givensfor 40 yards on the drive, including a 7-yard touchdown pass, and converted a fourth down on his own 44-yard yard with a 2-yard run. Manning seemed ready to counter, driving the Colts 68 yards to the New England 5-yard line, but on third down and 3, his pass was intercepted by Rodney Harrisonin the end zone. After the interception, the Patriots drove 67 yards to the Colts 13-yard line where Vinatieri's 31-yard field goal increased their lead to 10-0.
The Patriots defense continued to dominate the Colts in the second quarter. On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Law intercepted a pass from Manning and returned it 6 yards to the 41-yard line. The Patriots then drove 52 yards and increased their lead to 13-0 with a second Vinatieri field goal. Brady completed three passes for 42 yards on the drive, including a 17-yarder to Givens and a 16-yard completion to
Troy Brownon fourth down and 8. For the first time in the entire postseason, the Colts were forced to punt on their next drive. Apparently, they were very out of practice, because the snap from center Justin Snowsailed over the head of punter Hunter Smith. The ball went into the end zone, and Smith was forced to knock it out of bounds for a safety, making the score 15-0.
The Colts had a great opportunity to score when rookie defense back
David Macklinrecovered a fumble from receiver Bethel Johnsonthree plays after the free kick, giving Indianapolis a first down on the Patriots 41-yard line. But five plays later, Harrison forced a fumble while tackling Marvin Harrison, and cornerback Tyrone Poolerecovered it.
Trailing 15-0 at halftime, the Colts finally managed to build some momentum in the third quarter. First,
Dominic Rhodesgave them great field position by returning the second half kickoff 35 yards to the 49-yard line. Then running back Edgerrin Jamesspearheaded a 52-yard scoring drive, carrying the ball on 7 of 12 plays for 32 yards and capping it off with a 2-yard touchdown run to cut the score to 15-7. But the Patriots took over the rest of the period. After Patrick Passreturned the ensuing kickoff 21 yards to the 43-yard line, Brady completed passes to Larry Centersfor 28 yards, Brown for 17, and Kevin Faulkfor 8, setting up Vinatieri's third field goal to increase their lead to 18-7. Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Indianapolis was forced to punt. Antowain Smiththen rushed four times for 53 yards on New England's next possession, advancing the ball to the Colts 3-yard line where Vinatieri kicked his fourth field goal. Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Law recorded his second interception from Manning on the Colts 31-yard line. But this time, the Patriots failed to score because defensive back Walt Harrispicked off a pass from Brady in the end zone.
After the turnover, the Colts drove 57 yards to the New England 31-yard line. But then Manning threw his third interception to Law with 8:17 left in the fourth quarter. After forcing a punt, Manning led the Colts back, completing 8 of 9 passes for 64 yards and finishing the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to
Marcus Pollardwith 2:22 left in regulation. The Colts failed to recover their ensuing onside kick attempt, but forced a punt with 2:01 left. However, the Patriots defense limited Manning to four consecutive incompletions, causing the Colts to turn the ball over on downs. Then after making Indianapolis use up all of their timeouts, Vinateir's 5th field goal increased the Patriots lead to 24-14. The Colts attempted one last desperation drive, but ended up turning the ball over on downs again with 7 seconds left in the game.
Brady completed 22 of 37 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown, with 1 interception. Smith rushed for 100 yards. Pollard caught 6 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. Rhodes returned five kickoffs for 121 yards, rushed for 16, and caught 2 passes for 17.
Colts players would later publicly complain that the game officials did not properly call illegal contact, pass interference, and defensive holding penalties on the Patriots' defensive backs. This, and similar complaints made by others, would prompt the NFL during the 2004 offseason to instruct all of the league's officials to strictly enforce these types of fouls. [ [http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/articles/2004/03/31/nfl_will_crack_down_on_pass_interference/?page=2 NFL will crack down on pass interference - The Boston Globe ] ]
**NE - Givens 7 pass from Brady (Vinatieri kick) NE 7-0
**NE - field goal Vinatieri 31 NE 10-0
**NE - field goal Vinatieri 25 NE 13-0
**NE - Safety, Smith kicked ball out of end zone NE 15-0
**IND - James 2 run (Vanderjagt kick) NE 15-7
**NE - field goal Vinatieri 27 NE 18-7
**NE - field goal Vinatieri 21 NE 21-7
**IND - Pollard 7 pass from Manning (Vanderjagt kick) NE 21-14
**NE - field goal Vinatieri 34 NE 24-14
uper Bowl XXXVIII vs. Carolina Panthers
Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas"
*Game time: 6:30 p.m. EST
*Game weather: Played indoors,
*TV announcers (CBS): Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Phil Simms (color commentator), Armen Keteyian and Bonnie Bernstein (sideline reporters)
*Game attendance: 71,525
Most of the first half was a defensive struggle, with neither team able to score until late in the second quarter, despite several early scoring opportunities for New England. After Carolina was forced to punt on their opening drive, Patriots receiver
Troy Browngave his team great field position with a 28-yard return to the Panthers 47-yard line. The Patriots subsequently marched to the 9-yard line, but Carolina kept them out of the end zone and Adam Vinatierimissed a 31-yard field goal attempt. The Patriots forced Carolina to punt after 3 plays and again got the ball with great field position, receiving Todd Sauerbrun's 40-yard punt at the Panthers 49-yard line. New England then drove to the 31-yard line, but on third down, linebacker Will Witherspoontackled Brown for a 10-yard loss on an end-around play, pushing the Patriots out of field goal range. Later on, New England drove 57 yards to the Panthers 18-yard line with 6 minutes left in the second period, but once again they failed to score as Carolina kept them out of the end zone and Vinatieri's 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Panthers defender Shane Burton.
Meanwhile, the Carolina offense was stymied by the New England defense, with quarterback
Jake Delhommecompleting just one out of his first nine passes, sacked three times, and fumbling once. That fumble occurred 3 plays after Vinatieri's second missed field goal; Delhomme lost the ball while being sacked by linebacker Mike Vrabel, and Patriots defensive tackle Richard Seymourrecovered the ball at the Panthers 20-yard line. Two plays later, New England faced a third down and 7, but quarterback Tom Bradyscrambled 12 yards to the 5-yard line for a first down. Then wide receiver Deion Branchcaught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brady on the next play.
Branch's touchdown came after 26:55 had elapsed in the game, setting the record for the longest amount of time a Super Bowl remained scoreless. The play also suddenly set off a scoring explosion from both teams for the remainder of the first half.
The Panthers stormed down the field on their ensuing possession, driving 95 yards in 8 plays, and tying the game on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Delhomme to wide receiver Steve Smith with just 1:07 left in the half.
The Patriots immediately countered with a 6-play, 78-yard scoring drive of their own. Starting from their own 22-yard line, Brady completed a 12-yard pass to wide receiver
David Givens. Then after throwing an incompletion, Brady completed a long pass to Branch, who caught it at the Panthers 24-yard line in stride before being tackled at the 14-yard line for a 52-yard gain. Three plays later, Givens caught a 5-yard touchdown from Brady to give New England a 14-7 lead with only 18 seconds left in the half. The Patriots decided to squib kickthe ensuing kickoff to prevent a long return, but their plan backfired as Carolina tight end Kris Mangumpicked up the ball at his own 35-yard line and returned it 12 yards to the 47. Panthers running back Stephen Davisthen ran for 21 yards on the next play to set up kicker John Kasay's 50-yard field goal as time expired in the half, cutting Carolina's deficit to 14-10.
The third quarter was scoreless as each team exchanged punts twice. But with 3:57 left in the period, the Patriots put together a 71-yard, 8-play scoring drive, featuring tight end
Daniel Graham's 33-yard reception to advance to the Carolina 9-yard line. Running back Antowain Smiththen capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run on the second play on the final period to increase their lead, 21-10. This was the start of another scoring explosion, one that became one of the biggest explosions in Super Bowl history, with both teams scoring a combined 37 points in the last 15 minutes, the most ever in a single quarter of a Super Bowl.
Delhomme started out Carolina's ensuing drive with a 13-yard completion to wide receiver
Muhsin Muhammad. After committing a false start penalty on the next play, Delhomme completed a pair of passes to Smith for gains of 18 and 22 yards. Running back DeShaun Fosterthen scored on a 33-yard touchdown run, cutting the Panthers' deficit to 21-16 after Delhomme's 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete. The Patriots responded on their ensuing possession by driving all the way to Carolina's 9-yard line, but the drive ended when Panthers defensive back Reggie Howardintercepted a third down pass from Brady in the end zone. Then on 3rd down from his own 15-yard line, Delhomme threw for the longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history, an 85-yard touchdown completion to Muhammad. Carolina's 2-point conversion attempt failed again, but they took their first lead of the game, 22-21, with 6:53 remaining.
However, New England retook the lead on their next drive, advancing 68 yards with the aid of a pair of completions from Brady to Givens for gains of 18 and 25 yards. Once again the Patriots were faced with third down and goal, but this time they scored with Brady's 1-yard pass to Vrabel, who had lined up in an eligible tight end position. Then on a two-point conversion attempt, running back
Kevin Faulktook a direct snap and ran into the end zone to make the score 29-22. Despite amassing over 1,000 combined yards, Kevin Faulk's two-point conversion constituted the only points he scored all season. The Panthers countered on their next possession. Foster started the drive with a 9-yard run and a 7-yard reception. After that, Delhomme completed a 19-yard pass to Muhammad, followed by a 31-yard completion to receiver Ricky Proehl. Then Proehl, who caught the fourth quarter game tying touchdown pass against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI2 years earlier for the St. Louis Rams, finished the drive with a 12-yard touchdown reception. Kasay's ensuing extra point tied the game, 29-29, with 1:08 to play in regulation and it appeared that the game would be the first Super Bowl ever to go into overtime.
However, Kasay kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving New England the ball on their own 40-yard line. Brady calmly led the Patriots offense down the field with a 13-yard pass to Brown on second down. An offensive pass interference penalty on Brown pushed New England back to their own 43-yard line, but another 13-yard reception to Brown and a 4-yard pass to Graham brought up a critical 3rd down and 3 from the Carolina 40-yard line. The Panthers defense could not prevent the Patriots from gaining the first down, as Brady completed a clutch 17-yard pass to Branch. On the next play, Vinatieri kicked a 41-yard field goal to give New England the lead, 32-29, with four seconds left in the game. Carolina failed on their last chance, as
Rod Smartwent nowhere on the resulting kickoff, and the Patriots had won their second Super Bowl in three years. This was the fourth Super Bowl to be decided on a field goal in the final seconds. Super Bowl Vwas won on a last second kick by Jim O'Brien, Super Bowl XXVas Scott Norwood missed his field goal chance, and Super Bowl XXXVIas Adam Vinatieri made his.
**NE - TD: Deion Branch 5 yard pass from Tom Brady (Adam Vinatieri kick) 7-0 NE 3:05. Drive: 4 plays, 20 yards in 2:10
**CAR - TD: Steve Smith 39 yard pass from Jake Delhomme (John Kasay kick) 7-7 tie 1:07. Drive: 8 plays, 95 yards in 1:58
**NE - TD: David Givens 5 yard pass from Tom Brady (Adam Vinatieri kick) 14-7 NE 0:18. Drive: 6 plays, 78 yards in 0:49
**CAR - FG: John Kasay 50 yards 14-10 NE 0:00. Drive: 2 plays, 21 yards in 0:18
**NE - TD: Antowain Smith 2 yard run (Adam Vinatieri kick) 21-10 NE 14:49. Drive: 8 plays, 71 yards in 4:08
**CAR - TD: DeShaun Foster 33 yard run (2-pt conv: pass failed) 21-16 NE 12:39. Drive: 6 plays, 81 yards in 2:10
**CAR - TD: Muhsin Muhammad 85 yard pass from Jake Delhomme (2-pt conv: pass failed) 22-21 CAR 6:53 Drive: 3 plays, 90 yards in 0:45
**NE - TD: Mike Vrabel 1 yard pass from Tom Brady (2-pt conv: Kevin Faulk run) 29-22 NE2:51. Drive: 11 plays, 68 yards in 4:02
**CAR - TD: Ricky Proehl 12 yard pass from Jake Delhomme (John Kasay kick) 29-29 tie 1:08. Drive: 7 plays, 80 yards in 1:43
**NE - FG: Adam Vinatieri 41 yards 32-29 NE 00:04 Drive: 6 plays, 37 yards in 1:04
Notes and references
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